What's one of your most unusual talents? Once in a newsroom job interview, the managing editor asked me that very question. I was speechless for what felt like an eternity before finally I stammered that I could speak French. I was young, 23 years old, but old enough to realize it was a missed opportunity to share a story.
I still got the job. Thank goodness, because it was a great job, and I met my husband in that newsroom. My husband, by the way, was much cooler headed and quicker on his feet. He said he could juggle, so the editor selected three random objects from his office, and Jeff demonstrated -- and had a great story to tell afterward. From then on, he had an easy rapport with that editor, too.
I share this story, because I see these missed storytelling opportunities all the time. On LinkedIn profiles and in cover letters. In elevator pitches I hear at networking groups. In interviews with clients when I'm gathering information I need to do a LinkedIn makeover, pitch them to reporters or produce their marketing content.
People love personal stories.
Hiring managers, recruiters and prospective clients have heard all the buzz words. They ask unusual questions to determine how you will fit in socially in the organization or how you will interact with customers or how quick you are or how you are able to simply inject some humor into the job interview tedium. My husband is waiting for me to insert somewhere -- anywhere -- that in high school I won my speech and debate team's "Attitude" award. (There, honey; I did it.)
Those in a position to hire you or your company aren't the only ones seeking to know you on a more personal level. Customers and clients love personal stories and hints of humanity because generally speaking we like to do business with people.
Work, work, work is boring.
You really are more than your business or career -- or at least I hope you are. Who you are personally deserves a nod in your LinkedIn profile, cover letters, company bio and anywhere and everywhere people find you. My LinkedIn profile mentions how as a kindergartner I got a typewriter for Christmas. My Inc. bio includes one of my theme songs, "9 to 5." My website refers to my mean "knock poker" skills. What's knock poker, people sometimes ask?
One tactic I use when sprinkling some humanity in clients' LinkedIn profiles and professional bios: Imagine I will use what I've written to introduce that person to deliver a speech or accept an award. That helps to arrive at the right mix of professional (75-85 percent) to personal (the balance).
You will better connect with your audience when you start sharing personal stories. And you'll be prepared for those random questions that might be break or break in terms of new jobs, new clients and new opportunities.
To hiring managers and entrepreneurs who who make hires: Keep asking those curveball questions. The candidates who can answer them quickly and with a little humor will represent you and your company well. And they'll be fun colleagues to have around, too.